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The Tragedy of “The Harlem Hammer” Needn’t Be Repeated So Often



His nickname, ironically, was “The Harlem Hammer.”

James Butler was a super middleweight boxer, and a pretty good one at that. A fan favorite in his native New York City because of his relentless, attacking style, Butler was accomplished enough to have earned a title shot at IBF super middleweight champion Sven Ottke on Sept. 1, 2000, in Magdeburg, Germany, and despite the fact that he dropped a one-sided decision to the slick-boxing German, he was still rated at No. 8 in the 168-pound weight class by the IBF when he took on Richard Grant in his next bout, on Nov. 23 of that year, at the Roseland Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.

Grant, a pronounced underdog despite the fact he had outpointed Butler in a four-rounder early in the respective careers, on Jan. 31, 1997, had reprised his earlier victory in winning a unanimous, 10-round decision. The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident was celebrating with his cornermen when Grant, whose gloves had been removed, walked over as if to offer a congratulatory handshake.

As Grant lifted his arms to hug his opponent, a gesture of respect and sportsmanship that is so often the case in even the hardest-fought boxing matches, “The Harlem Hammer” nailed him with an overhand right to the jaw that sent the victor crashing to the canvas, unconscious, bloody spittle spewing from his mouth like fiery ash from an erupting volcano.

That’s when all hell broke loose. But it would not be the last criminally violent act of a mentally unstable individual whose inner demons had yet to become fully, and tragically, apparent.

Predictably, Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas, who had called the bout that was televised on ESPN2, reacted with shock and revulsion.

“James Butler should never be allowed in the ring again!” Papa, the blow-by-blow announcer, screamed into his microphone. “Absolutely! That’s assault and battery! He should be arrested right on the spot! What a punk! The police should come in here and arrest him! Handcuff him!”

Atlas, the color analyst, was no less aghast by what he had just seen. “Butler just went over there and sucker-punched – sucker-punched! – and knocked out Grant,” he said. “Oh, boy. Terrible. And the new commissioner (of the New York State Athletic Commission), Ray Kelly, will do something very, very enforceful here … That was a punch without a glove on! A despicable, cowardly act!”

Butler’s in-ring meltdown is all the more egregious and unfathomable considering the circumstances: All the proceeds from the “Fighting for America” card, held just two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that had left 3,000 dead and a nation shaken, went to the Twin Towers Fund, and about 500 New York police officers and firefighters were among the 1,517 spectators. Several of the participating boxers – including Butler, who was to be paid $10,000 – had pledged their entire purses toward the relief effort.

Seated at ringside was Kelly, who in addition to his top spot with the NYSAC, was New York mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg’s newly appointed police commissioner. If Butler was going to commit an act of senseless violence that potentially could have landed him in prison for seven years, this was the worst possible audience before which to do it.

Kelly, in fact, did order the arrest of Butler, who was led from the arena in handcuffs. He spent the night at the Rikers Island detention facility, and he later was convicted of assault. He served four months behind bars, accelerating a personal and professional decline that may have been inevitable in any case.

Born and raised in a housing project by a mother who frequently left him and his brother to fend for themselves, Butler had gotten a reputation for having a quick temper even before he coldcocked Grant and made himself something of a pariah in New York’s close-knit boxing community. Tales abounded of harsh words, and sometimes blows, he frequently exchanged with sparring partners and others outside the ring at the gym that served as his home base as well as for Atlas, who trained fighters in addition to his ESPN2 analyst duties.

“I’m sure there were previous incidents (prior to the postfight knockout of Grant) if you trace it back,” Atlas told me a few days before the Nov. 23 anniversary date of the fateful night he now calls “probably the worst” transgression he has ever seen in the sport, along with Mike Tyson’s chewing off of part of Evander Holyfield’s right ear on June 28, 1997. “I’m sure there were other past acts of violence, or at least threats of violence. I knew he had gotten into some skirmishes in the gym where I was when he was training, but they never got to a level where he seriously hurt anybody. Some threats may have been made, but you see that sometimes in the gym. Usually nothing comes of it.”

Perhaps, if he had refrained from throwing the illegal punch that sent his career spinning wildly off-kilter, things would have turned out much differently for Butler. Then again, maybe not. He ballooned to 256 pounds, in part because of medication he was put on after he was diagnosed as being bipolar, but, even after he put in the time to get all the unwanted weight off – a process expedited by the fact he had cut back on or stopped taking his meds — he was a mere shadow of the fighter he had been. He was just 2-2 against mostly second-tier opponents after the Grant debacle, his final ring appearance a split-decision loss to Omar Sheika on Aug. 10, 2004.

Personal issues also contributed to Butler’s deteriorating state of mind and overall demise. He relocated to Vero Beach, Fla., to work with his new trainer, Buddy McGirt, and while there he met a woman, Chase Mariposa, who was to bear him a son. Mariposa would later say that Butler, his boxing income all but gone and his reputation in tatters, would often erupt into frightening fits of anger.

Feeling alone and unwanted, Butler, a two-time New York Golden Gloves champion, turned to the one friend who had been there for him through thick and frequently thin – Sam Kellerman, younger brother of Max Kellerman, a sports talk-show host who is now a boxing analyst for HBO Sports.

Sam Kellerman – well-educated (a graduate of Columbia University), outgoing, from an affluent family — seemed an unlikely candidate to ever have formed an alliance with the brooding Butler, a product of some of New York’s meaner streets. They were both products of the same town, but from decidedly different sections, and decidedly different sociological strata. Kellerman, a white-collar type who boxed to, as one associate said, “to toughen himself up,” and Butler, the menacing pro, had been introduced to each other a decade earlier by their mutual trainer, Alexander Newbold, who believed it was beneficial for his fighters to socialize outside of the gym.

Kellerman, by then living in Hollywood, Calif., agreed to take Butler in, with the understanding he would be a houseguest for only a few days. But the days stretched into weeks, Butler revealing no intention to move out, at which point Kellerman told his now-not-so-close friend that he would have him evicted if he did not leave voluntarily.

On Oct. 17, 2004, Sam Kellerman, 29, was found dead on the floor of his blood-splattered apartment. His body had been there for several days, the authorities said, and there was evidence of arson. The murder weapon, a bloody hammer, was found at the scene.

Three days after Kellerman’s body was discovered, Butler turned himself in to the police. He pleaded not guilty to murder and arson, but later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and arson and was sentenced to 29 years, four months in prison by Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor.

Violent behavior, sometimes resulting in death, is common enough that it scarcely raises an eyebrow in 21st century America. But when sports celebrities are involved, the issue takes on heightened significance. Even non-NFL fans are aware of the domestic- violence scandals that have made such well-known football players as Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald notorious figures. All of which raises an issue that increasingly merits discussion: Are athletes, especially those who have risen to prominence from desperately poor or disadvantaged backgrounds, more susceptible to involvement in the kind of incidents that have become something of a national cause celebre?

Atlas believes each case should be judged on its individual merits, but what are the criteria for realizing, with any degree of certainty, that anyone is a ticking time bomb about to go off?

“I think it’s important at all levels of society to identify someone who might have tendencies that are not conducive to a proper workplace,” said Atlas, whose concedes that his own background is pockmarked with youthful indiscretions. “If someone’s actions suggest he has violent impulses, that should not be accepted any place. It shouldn’t just be relegated to sports. We have to look at these things seriously at all times, but maybe even more so nowadays, because there seems to be more and more incidents that we’re learning about.

“It could be a stepfather beating a two-year-old child to death, which just happened in the Bronx and I read about in the newspaper. Apparently this child had shown signs of being abused by this person before, and was put back in that household. Now she’s dead. If she hadn’t been put back in that household, she’d still be alive. This is a child who never had a real chance at life.

“Do we need to look at things like that, and the James Butler situation, closer? Who’s responsibility is that? Who’s actually qualified to say this or that person is dangerous? I also read that somebody pushed somebody else in front of a subway train. They’ll probably find that the guy who did it is mentally disturbed, and I’m sure there are people capable of such things walking around the streets of New York right now. But who gets to make this call that `This person needs help,’ or `This other person should be put away.’ Usually it doesn’t happen until he acts out.”

So we are left to wonder, who is the next James Butler? Or the next Ike Ibeabuchi? Is one act of aberrant behavior enough to send up a red warning flare? Is two sufficient? Three or more?

Upon his return to boxing after his vicious attack on Grant, Butler his thought process went so blank he didn’t even realize what he had done, or why he had done it.

“Nothing went through my mind,” Butler told Tim Smith, of the New York Daily News, before his first post-Grant bout, against Thomas Reid, on Feb. 27, 2005. “That’s the point. It was flat-line. I was like dead. I went blank. After I hit Richard everything clicked back on. It was like fist to jaw, then the noise and the lights and I could see and hear all the people. It was like I was literally brain-dead for a while. If I had been thinking I would have just walked out of the ring, maybe punched a locker or broken a door or something.”

Understandably, Max Kellerman was – and still is – shaken by the death of a brother he cherished. But even he was prepared to grant Butler a bit of leniency just days after his post-fight assault on Grant. In a bylined story for, Max noted that “Riddick Bowe punched Larry Donald with his bare fist at a press conference promoting their match in 1994. The blow did no real physical damage. Nonetheless, it was assault. Bowe was neither led away in handcuffs nor handed a lifetime suspension from any state athletic commission. It could be that the handling of Bowe’s assault was a mistake, and a more severe reaction was warranted. Yet if an example is made of Butler, the Bowe incident will beg the question: was Butler punished out of proportion?

“Mike Tyson bit a part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off, knocked Orlin Norris down and ended the fight after the bell had run to end the first round of their bout, admittedly tried to break Frans Botha’s arm in a clinch, and hit and knocked down the referee who tried to stop his fight against Lou Savarese. Tyson’s license has not been permanently taken away, despite this pattern of bad behavior. James Butler has no such pattern. His attacking Grant was an isolated incident.”

Atlas is correct. Good or bad, right or wrong, are not reserved sections for any particular group. The Menendez brothers, Lyle and Erik, were convicted in 1994 for the shotgun murder of their affluent parents in the family’s Beverly Hills, Calif., mansion. A movie that is drawing Academy Award notices, “Foxcatcher,” is in theaters now and details the murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz by John Eleuthere du Pont, the heir to the du Pont pharmaceutical fortune. Du Pont, who was convicted in 1997, had demonstrated increasingly erratic and paranoid behavior prior to his killing of Schultz, but it was largely shrugged off as the eccentricities of a very wealthy man.

Atlas could offer himself as proof that everyone at least deserves a second chance. Son of a beloved physician in the family’s Staten Island, N.Y., neighborhood, the young Teddy dropped out of high school, served time in Rikers Island for his participation in an armed robbery and still bears the jagged facial scar from a street slashing that required 400 stitches to close. On Nov. 20, a date in close calendar proximity to the anniversary date of Butler’s unprovoked slugging of Grant, he will host the 18th annual Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation dinner, which aids Staten Island’s poor, sick and forgotten with emergency funds, as needed. And, on Saturday, Nov. 21, he again will distribute a thousand turkeys so that some of for the borough’s underprivileged citizens will have something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Perhaps there is no way of absolutely detecting when a James Butler will cross the line separating civility and depravity, but there are enough instances when a Teddy Atlas or a Bernard Hopkins brakes himself before passing the point of no return that everyone else can dare to hope that salvation exists on a wider basis.

The final page of Teddy’s autobiography, “Atlas: A Son’s Journey From the Streets to the Ring to a Life Worth Living,” co-authored with Peter Alson, offers this positive message.

“I’m very aware of the extremes within me,” Atlas writes. “The caring and the anger. I’ve gotten better over the years at modulating them and controlling them, but I won’t pretend they don’t still exist. I guess in some ways my whole life has been a journey and a search for family. I wasn’t some kid from the streets. I was a doctor’s don who grew up in a nice house in a good neighborhood. It just goes to show that you can be lost and alone and neglected in any kind of surroundings.”

It’s too bad for Sam Kellerman – for all of us, really – that the journey of James Butler, “The Harlem Hammer,” didn’t lead him to the same sort of favorable destination.


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Boxing Needs More John Scully’s



“Iceman” John Scully might be complex or he might be uncomplicated, but whatever the case and unlike many in the periphery of boxing who have a disproportionate sense of self-importance, he is real, humble, accessible, well-grounded, direct in a nice way, and a brutally honest person who has done it all; and I mean all.

He was an outstanding amateur boxer, a skilled boxer-puncher with an extraordinary ring IQ, who concluded his amateur career with a Bronze medal winning performance at the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials. His proudest moment was defeating Darin Allen in 1988 to qualify for the U.S. Olympic trials. He says, “Darin was a world amateur champion, a national champion and one of the most well respected boxers in the world at the time, and I always knew that a fight with him would be like a Super Bowl type event for me.”

He became a two-time title contender in the professional ranks, finishing with an admirable 38-11 record (though he was not quite able to transfer his amateur success). He was only stopped once and that was by the mysterious Drake Thadzi who had just won a decision over James Toney. Scully’s opposition included names like Littles, Nunn (one of his  best performances in a losing cause), Maske, Thornton, Bridges and Rocchigiani.

After retiring in 2001, he did some excellent TV commentating with Joe Tessitore on ESPN Classic. He was a cerebral, smooth and articulate ringside analyst for that network’s Boxing Series. By all accounts, he should have been picked up by one of the national networks, but it was not to be. Nevertheless, he took what he had learned over the years and put it all together, turning it into a successful training career. At the age of 51, he still spars with his charges.

There were signs along the way of the kind of values John possessed.  When William Papaleo “Willie Pep” passed away on November 23, 2006, sadly only three ex or current boxers attended the funeral. One was John .

In 2009, he was a relatively early inductee into the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame. The following is noted on its web site: “Boxing has been in Scully’s blood for nearly his entire life. He was a highly successful amateur. He was a solid professional. Now a trainer, Scully has worked with world champions. Scully twice fought for the world light heavyweight title. The lifelong Windsor resident won a New England middleweight crown and also captured an Eastern Regional national amateur championship…”. John has been the primary boost for getting boxing back into the Hartford area.

He also has been writing, chronicling his days in the ring with the “Iceman’s Diaries,” a work in progress.  Scully is considered an outstanding historian–especially regarding his knowledge of his  idol, Muhammed Ali, whom he tries to emulate by “living out his values, but having fun in the process.”

Very recently he was awarded the prestigious Bert Sugar Trophy by RING 10 in New York City. The award recognizes those “who carry a proficient knowledge of the history of boxing and preserve its memories.”

“I never turn down an interview request now because I find it pretty funny, it’s really a trip that you even care enough what I have to say to ask me,” Iceman says. But the fact is, he is a much sought-after interviewee and always thanks the interviewer for his or her time.


I plan on training fighters for as long as I am alive on this earth.–Iceman John Scully

Even while boxing, he began to train other fighters as early as the late 1980’s. However, he became a sought-after trainer much later, guiding several boxers to world championships including: Liz Mueller, WIBF Lightweight Champion; Jose Antonio “El Gallo” Rivera, WBA Junior Middleweight Champion; Mike Oliver, IBO Super Bantamweight Champion; and “Bad” Chad Dawson, WBC Light heavyweight Champion. His highest achievement may have been in May of 2006, when he guided underdog Rivera to the WBA Junior Middleweight Championship, with a dominating points victory over defending champion Alejandro “Terra” Garcia (25-1 coming in) in Worcester, MA.

“Iceman” has also had a hand in the professional training of such notable boxers as heavy-handed Israel “Pito” Cardona, smooth Matt Godfrey, slick “Sucra” Ray Olivera, the super exciting Scott “The Sandman” Pemberton, talented Lawrence Clay-Bey, rugged Matt Remillard, and Puerto Rico born Francisco “The Wizard” Palacios.

John is currently a part of TEAM Artur Beterbiev, led by Marc Ramsey. Beterviev is one of the best in boxing, as attested to by the Chechen’s violent stoppage over previously undefeated Callum Johnson on October 7th in Chicago. And while in the Windy City, he took the time to check on the legendary Wilfred Benítez, who resides there under the care of his sister, Yvonne.

As an aside, this is what Scully has to say about Beterbiev: “Artur… is a monster. He’s a very powerful guy with unusual strength for a guy his size. As an amateur, he had over 300 fights. Beterbiev actually fought as a heavyweight (201 pounds) as an amateur, winning the European title and handling all the bigger guys….Beterbiev beat former world champion, Sergey Kovalev as an amateur.”

Scully (married with one daughter and three stepsons) also signed on to take part in a 10-year study at the renowned Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, NV. Once a year, he and others undergo six hours of different kinds of testing and then the results are monitored to track  progress or regression over a 10-year span. Happily, his results have been well above average thus far. In fact, Scully’s memory is exceptional.

And so the laurels go on and on and keep pouring in. Indeed, there is not enough space to write about all of them, including his community activism amongst other things. But then this is not as much about his many varied accomplishments (and renaissance-man persona) as it is about his less visible activity of reaching out to help other ex-boxers as they struggle with the transition from boxing. He gives the phrase “reaching out” a more noble meaning.

Reaching Out

A recent reunion in LA

The following from Facebook is representative of just one of the many such things  the “Iceman” does to assist his boxing brothers and sisters: “RJ signed a “Roy Jones 2X World Champ” hat for me in June that I am currently auctioning off, with the highest bidder receiving it ASAP. Proceeds to go to the great, but badly ailing, three-time world champion Wilfred Benítez.”

He is in touch with Gerald McClellan’s loving sister and caregiver, Lisa. In fact, in 2017 he participated in a big event in Harlem that served to bring more awareness to G-Man and his difficult situation. Scully was able to secure a very generous donation for him from the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame committee. Currently, John has some beautiful special-edition boxing posters by Richard Slone that he plans to sell off, with the revenue to go directly to Gerald. Over that last few years, he has sold various pieces of boxing memorabilia, with the proceeds going to different former fighters.

The thing is, Gerald and Wilfred are the ones that everyone knows about; there are others who remain anonymous here, but they are out there and they are in need. As someone once said (it might have been Steve Buffery), boxers rarely leave the sport with more than they brought in. Scully has aligned himself with former middleweight Matt Farrago, President of Ring 10 in New York City and another former middleweight Alex “The Bronx Bomber” Ramos, with The Retired Boxers Foundation in Los Angeles; both of whom have done some amazing things for ex-boxers in need. Getting to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. remains a goal, as the good that Floyd could do for struggling ex boxers is virtually unlimited.

John also organizes fun gatherings (aka reunions) of ex-boxers, and recently had one at Fortune Boxing in Hollywood, California. He has also held them at three different spots in Harlem and New York City, in Las Vegas at Russ Anber’s Rival Boxing store, and at both casinos in Connecticut (Foxwoods and The Mohegan Sun). This past February, he conducted one in conjunction with USA Boxing at the New England Golden Gloves tournament in Lowell, Massachusetts. Guys like Roy Jones, Mike McCallum, Marlon Starling, Lamon Brewster, Montell Griffin, Ronnie Essett, Mickey Bey, Felix Nance and Micky Ward have attended, as have such entertainers as actor Frank Stallone and rappers Flava’ Flav’ and R.A as well.

As Ice puts it, “A lot of former boxers are unfortunately not sailing off into the sunset but, rather, are now being forced to fight much different and much harder types of battles in retirement. Fortunately, there are guys in the game who haven’t forgotten them and are constantly pushing for them to get the help they need. It really is a special thing to see, real boxing people helping real boxing people.” John is one of them. This is where the talk stops and the help begins; where the rubber hits the road.

‘Iceman’ John Scully “… is an uncomplicated man who picks directions, identifies preferences and sticks with what works. It’s always been that way, and it applies to everything in his life.” (Taken from an article titled  Windsor’s ‘Iceman’ John Scully To Be Honored For Boxing Contributions, by Mike Anthony in the Hartford Courant dated September 22, 2018.)

John needs to keep doing what he is doing for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which being that it  just might become contagious.

Floyd Mayweather Junior, are you listening?

Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active full power lifters and Strongman competitors. He is a member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

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Crawford Ends it Like a Champ



This past weekend WBO welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford 34-0 (25) retained his title stopping Jose Benavidez 27-1 (18) in the 12th round. Crawford was cruising along dominating the fight from the sixth round on, then came out hard in the last round and went for the kill against a tiring Benavidez. It ended abruptly when Crawford jarred and dropped Benavidez with a right uppercut to the chin. Benavidez beat the count but was immediately overwhelmed by Crawford as soon as the fight resumed and it was halted.

Prior to the bout Crawford was considered the best pound for pound fighter in boxing by many. His performance against Benavidez further endorses that sentiment….unless Benavidez being competitive during the first five rounds is enough to make some re-think their position. For those who weren’t aware, Benavidez was the fifth undefeated opponent Crawford has defeated in a title bout over three weight divisions and he’s now 12-0 (9) in world title bouts.

The Benavidez fight was Crawford’s first 147-pound title defense since winning it from Jeff Horn this past June. And it started in typical Crawford fashion. For the first two rounds Crawford surveyed Benavidez (who may be the biggest and longest welterweight in the division) while Jose was looking to apply his physical advantages. Crawford fought from a conventional stance through the first round and then as it was winding down he reverted to fighting as a southpaw and stayed in that stance for the rest of the fight. In the second Crawford did a little of everything but was mostly trying to get a read on Benavidez’s long jab. He tried leading and countering both on the move and in flurries but wasn’t initially met with overwhelming success. Benavidez forced Crawford to work as Jose moved in from a slight crouch hoping to lure Crawford into going first, and he did. However, Crawford disrupted his plan by slamming him to the body.  In return, Jose also went to the body but the difference over the first five rounds was Crawford’s quicker hands and more imaginative offense.

By the time the sixth round rolled around, Benavidez, who initially showed up to win, was reduced to accepting that he couldn’t outfight Crawford. Thus, he was reduced to doing just enough to keep Crawford from brutalizing him and to save face. During the mid-rounds when Crawford was killing his body and then flurrying with right hooks to the head, the only thing Benavidez could offer back was a shrug of his shoulders. In other words Jose was trying to con the judges into thinking Crawford was fighting his rear off yet he couldn’t do any real damage. Muhammad Ali applied the same con job against Joe Frazier during their first fight, and like Frazier, Crawford ignored it and kept working the body and mixing things up.

By the eighth round, Benavidez was slowed to a walk and his punch output was reduced to just doing enough so Crawford couldn’t go at him with total impunity. However, that was about to change. Crawford raised the rent in the 10th round and started to plant more and forced Benavidez to retreat after whacking him with straight lefts and counter right hooks to both the head and body. The more Benavidez refused to engage and shrugged his shoulders trying to convince Terence he couldn’t hurt him – Crawford knew better and in turn stayed focused and kept going at Benavidez when he knew he really was done fighting and hoping to go the distance. The problem was the bad blood between them was something Crawford wouldn’t let go of nor was he about to show his thoroughly drained and beaten opponent any mercy….it’s not in Crawford’s DNA.

Finally, after a pretty spirited fight, and winning all but maybe two rounds going into the 12th, Crawford had Benavidez where he wanted him – and that was right in front of him, tired and defenseless with little punch or resistance left. It was obvious as the fight wore on that Crawford wanted a stoppage victory and wouldn’t be happy until he separated himself from his lanky opponent and the only way to achieve that was by ending the fight inside the distance.

“It was coming,” Crawford said. “It was just a matter of time. He slowed down tremendously. He was tired. That’s when I seen my opportunity to take my uppercut shot. Every time I’ll feint, he would pull back. So I was like, ‘Now is not the time.’ But once he slowed down, I seen that I can catch him with it and then that’s what I did.”

Crawford met Benavidez, who attempted to stem the tide, at the start of the final round. Terence unloaded on Benavidez to the head and body, wasting few punches. Crawford worked with the intent to finish his younger and beaten opponent. Crawford landed a jarring right uppercut that had Benavidez go down, nearly in a half somersault. Once they resumed engaging, Crawford flurried and the bout was stopped with 18 seconds to go in the fight.

The showing was impressive on Crawford’s part because he was troubled early due to Benavidez’s size and somewhat unconventional style. Jose had his moments and found moderate success with his jab and a few right hands he landed when Crawford retreated, sometimes moving back in a straight line with his hands low. But other than that the fight wasn’t close and the fact that Benavidez realized he couldn’t win by the fifth round, he did what he could to prevent Crawford from beating him up but not much else.

Due to the fight going almost the entire distance, some observers feel Crawford was underwhelming; I don’t. And the reason is, Benavidez is better than most thought and he was the bigger man and it was pronounced seeing them in the ring together. In beating his bigger foe, Crawford emptied his toolbox. He boxed during the periods he was devising an attack strategy, he moved and forced Benavidez to use his legs and work…..and then countered when Jose tried to be assertive. Crawford’s body punching to both sides was impressive and truly paid dividends down the homestretch. And the right uppercut that dropped Benavidez showed that although Crawford isn’t a life-taker when it comes to power, he consistently lands clean shots that his opponents never see coming.

Crawford closed the fight like the champ he is and once again demonstrated that he’s stylistically the most versatile fighter in boxing. He answered mostly all of Benavidez’s punches with his own which is a staple of his style. Terence showed he’s capable of fully concentrating while fighting mad and seems to have an answer for anything and everything he’s confronted with. Crawford has no real weakness other than him not being a big welterweight.

There isn’t one welterweight in the world on his level. For Errol Spence, Keith Thurman or Shawn Porter to beat him – they have only one option. They better hope and pray that their physicality along with the ability to apply it can be a game changer…because if they can’t overwhelm him physically, they’ll be picked apart and totally outfought and out-thought starting around the third or fourth round when they eventually meet.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at

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Terence Crawford Has Conquered the World, and Now He’s Won Over Nebraska



It was a day of even more anguish for Nebraskans, making for a night of even more exultation in a state where boxing – or, at least a particular boxer – is emerging as a hero and much-needed source of pride for citizens left wondering about the sorry state of the once-mighty Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Hours after those Cornhuskers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 10-point lead in the final 5 minutes, 21 seconds to fall 34-31 in overtime at Northwestern and begin a college football season 0-6 for the first time in program history, WBO welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford defended his title with panache and power, stopping previously undefeated challenger Jose Benavidez, Jr. in the 12th round to buttress his argument that he is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. There are still pockets of resistance to his claim to that designation, of course, but none coming from the ESPN broadcast crew of Joe Tessitore, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Mark Kriegel, all of whom intermittently offered their opinion that the switch-hitting Omaha resident has now firmly established himself as best of the best.

The 31-year-old Crawford’s latest bravura performance was met with shouted hosannas of approval from the sellout crowd of 13,323 in Omaha’s CHI Health Center, a record for a boxing event in Nebraska, and a stark contrast to the burgeoning sense of panic among Cornhusker partisans, who have to be wondering who these impostors in the red-and-white uniforms are.

Crawford grew up in a poor section of Omaha as an avid Nebraska fan, and after his latest demonstration of nimble footwork, fast, accurate hands and surprising power you could hardly blame his fellow home-state citizens from wondering if he might be persuaded to enroll at NU and play quarterback for his floundering favorite team. The ability to finish strong, taking the fight even harder to Benavidez in the final round when the more prudent move might have been to simply run out the clock, stamps Crawford as the pugilistic equivalent of Tommie Frazier, the option master who led the Huskers to back-to-back national championships in 1994 and ’95. But even the legendary Frazier wasn’t perfect; he was 43-3 as a starter during his four-year college career. Crawford, now 34-0 with 25 wins inside the distance, has a vision of someday retiring undefeated, a goal that at this stage seems entirely reasonable.

Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum, Crawford’s promoter, cited the fighter’s 12th-round mugging of Benavidez, the key blow being a ripping right uppercut that he had hidden up his figurative sleeve like a card sharp’s ace, as proof that the three-division world champion is indeed separate and above the madding crowd.

“Most fighters today, in that position, having clearly won the fight, would back off in the 12th round, not take any chances and run out the clock,” Arum said. “Not him. He’s a performer. He wanted to close the show, and that’s what he did. That’s what makes him special. That is not the mindset most (other fighters) have. But Terence is a showman. He wants to make a statement.”

He especially wanted to make it, and as loudly as possible, against the mouthy Benavidez (27-1, 18 KOs), who has been talking smack about Crawford for months and gave him a hard shove at Friday’s weigh-in, which precipitated a retaliatory right hook from the champion. It missed, thankfully, but no matter. Crawford landed plenty of shots that did when it mattered, smoothly alternating, as always, from an orthodox stance to southpaw and back again.

“We just took our time today,” Crawford said, referring to himself in the plural rather than the singular, a nod toward his support team, most notably manager-trainer Brian McIntyre. “Everything that went on this week, he was trying to get in my head, wanting me to have a firefight with him. I knew if we got in a rhythm we could do whatever we wanted, and that’s what we did.

“He made me work in the early rounds. He was trying to counter me, working on my distance. I couldn’t figure it out at first. But once I got my distance, it was a rout from there.”

Maybe the rout evolved methodically and in a controlled fashion because that’s what Crawford, who had vowed to “punish” Benavidez for his impertinence, had in mind all along. He is a man of his word, and, also as he had vowed, he declined to touch gloves with Benavidez or to offer even a halfhearted hug after the final bell. No surprise there; like fellow Omaha native Bob Gibson, the St. Louis Cardinals’ Hall of Fame pitcher, he regards all opponents as the enemy and thus off-limits to fraternization of any kind.

What about that kept-in-reserve uppercut, which sent Benavidez tumbling awkwardly to the canvas and in obvious distress?

“I’d been seeing it rounds and rounds ahead of time,” said Crawford, who is now 5-0 in Omaha and 6-0 in  Nebraska, counting a sole appearance in Lincoln. “I seen him pulling back,but then he stopped pulling back so I started leaning more and more because I was touching him to the body. Then I threw the shot, and it landed.”

For those with a need to crunch numbers, official scorecards through 11 completed rounds all had the overwhelming wagering choice – Crawford went off at minus-3,000, or a 1-to-30 favorite – winning big on the scorecards tallied by judges Levi Martinez (110-99), Robert Hecko (108-101) and Glenn Feldman (107-102). Punch statistics furnished by CompuBox also were conclusive if not necessarily off-the-charts, with Crawford landing 186 of 579, a decent but not overly so 32.1 percent, to 92 of 501 (18.4 percent) for the outclassed but game Benavidez. But boxing is basically  an art form, not math, and like all artists Crawford is more about aesthetic impression than raw data.

For his part, Benavidez, who had promised to “shock the world” by “exposing” Crawford, figured he had done as well, if not better, than most of Bud’s previous victims.

“I gave him a hell of a fight,” Benavidez reasoned. “But I got tired. Boxing, you know. I was pretty impressive. I wanted to give the fans a fight that they paid to come watch. I know he didn’t think I would be that good.

“I take nothing from him. He’s the best of the best for a reason. He’s a good fighter, you know? But I’m a good fighter, too. I had that fight close.”

In the co-featured bout, 21-year-old featherweight Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs), a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, was much more dynamic than he had been in scoring a relatively pedestrian eight-round unanimous decision over Carlos Ruiz on Aug. 18 in Atlantic City, blasting out Romanian veteran Viorel Simion (21-3, 9 KOs) in one round. The southpaw Stevenson’s weapon of choice was the right hook, which he used to telling effect to floor Simion three times, prompting referee Curtis Thrasher to wave the bout off after an elapsed time of three minutes.

Simion, a 36-year-old Romanian whose previous losses were to former world champions Lee Selby and Scott Quigg, was penciled last in as a replacement for the injured Duarn Vuc, had never been stopped in his 12-year pro career and he looked askance at Thrasher, as if disbelieving that he would not be given the opportunity to fight his way out of trouble in the scheduled  10-rounder.  But, his legs still wobbly, he was not pleading a winnable case.

“My power was here tonight, and my speed,” said Stevenson, who claimed the vacant WBC Continental Americas 126-pound title. “Ain’t too much more that I can work on, but I’m going to keep staying sharp and get right back in the gym.”

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